Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted once again that fighting does not just take place on the physical front lines. Since the early onset of the war, footage of burning enemy tanks, disillusioned Russian soldiers, and a lone heroic fighter pilot defending Kyiv were shared countlessly on social media, bolstering troop morale and mobilising public support. Even if information has always been used to shape adversary thinking and decision-making, rapid advancements in information and communications technologies as well as cognitive psychology have added to their centrality. As a result, state and nonstate actors alike have ramped up efforts to exploit and manipulate the information environment for both tactical and strategic purposes. With such influencing efforts becoming increasingly pervasive, Western military organisations across the Atlantic have begun to shift their attention accordingly.
In information warfare, non-kinetic, information-driven capabilities are employed to target human cognition, seeking changes in attitudes, perceptions and behaviour. While physical, kinetic means can do just that – think of the deterrent effect of a military exercise or the compellent intention of bombing civilian targets – here the emphasis is on manipulating the information flow. At its core are behavioural influencing tactics that exploit flaws in human cognition.
This paper sets out a number of crucial tactics that have proven effective at doing just that. It specifically focuses on methods aimed at influencing larger groups of people. This can be done especially effectively via the virtual dimension, but the influencing principles often apply to the offline world too. What is more, many of the tactics can likewise be implemented at the tactical level.
This paper is the first of a series which are part of the project Platform Influencing Human Behaviour, commissioned by the Royal Netherlands Army.
Authors: Lotje Boswinkel, Neill Bo Finlayson, John Michaelis and Michel Rademaker
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Cover image source: Kremlin.ru